Shantytowners hope to raise awareness of homelessness

by Rob Stewart

In a few days, Progressive Action Coalition members will beliving like homeless people. No, they’re not sleeping in the coldbecause they lost their house to Students Having a GoodNon-Alcoholic Time. They’re roughing it in an attempt to raiseawareness about homelessness.

During National Homelessness Awareness Week, Nov. 15-19, PACmembers will build and sleep in a collection of cardboard-boxshelters they call Shantytown.

According to senior Kristine Robson, the purpose of Shantytownis “to try and make people aware and empower them to be active andhelpful to the people.”

The PAC members will be sleeping in Shantytown for four nights,and members will be there throughout the day.

In its four years of existence at Simpson College, Shantytownhas sometimes been a source of controversy. According to Robson,despite the slight controversy, the majority of the Simpson Collegecommunity’s reaction has been positive.

“I think it’s for a good cause and it gives students a chance tobecome aware of the problems of society,” senior Andy Englishsaid.

However, some students have questioned the legitimacy of theevent because the PAC students used cardboard boxes to constructtheir shanties and the members sleep in sleeping bags. Somestudents thought these were amenities real homeless people wouldn’thave.

“Homelessness comes in all shapes and sizes,” Robson said, “Wethought about just sleeping out there in sleeping bags, butShantytown gives a good visual…I think people notice itmore.”

In previous years, some disapproving students went as far as tothrow oranges at the cardboard shelters and the people inside.

Nonetheless, Robson thinks all the controversy is good for thecause.

“It definitely gets people talking,” Robson said. “I thinkthat’s a good thing because I think people need to be subjected tothings they don’t want to see. I know a lot of people just turntheir heads when they see a homeless person. That’s why we put itright out in front of the library where people walk by.”

For upperclassmen, Shantytown may lose its shock value thisyear.

“When I was a freshman I was really interested in it and findingout what it was,” senior Sarah Meyer said. “But the older you getthe easier it is to ignore.”

New to Shantytown this year: evictions.

Students who wish to be evicted will sign up ahead of time andthen during the week the PAC members will come to their doors andevict them. Those evicted students will join the PAC memberssleeping in Shantytown.

PAC encourages the student body to join in the event – anyone iswelcome to sleep in Shantytown.

“The more the merrier, because it makes it warmer in there,”Robson said.

Shantytown isn’t the only event PAC is sponsoring in the timeleading up to and during the National Homelessness Awarenessweek.

They hosted Food for the Soul last Tuesday, serving soup-kitchenstyle food. PAC will be hosting a hobo dinner, a movie and aspeaker during the week.